marketers ruin everything

Sad but true. Douglas Rushkoff wrote a great post over at Mashable about how marketing is threatening Social Media’s “true promise.” I think that Rushkoff is reacting to the big brands (specifically P&G) jumping into the Social Media pool and swinging their big checkbooks around (I’m not sure that metaphor works exactly but you get my point).

Maybe you’ve noticed more of the corporate “biggies” on your Facebook page than before. Turns out this Social Media thing is here to stay and big business is elbowing their way into what was a pretty nice neighborhood until they showed up.

Rushkoff writes this in his conclusion:

We are building the social organism together. That’s all the Internet has been doing from the beginning. But it seems as soon as we develop a new tool or strand of connectivity, it is hijacked by business, robbed of its power, and then replaced by mechanisms that connect us to things, rather than people.

I’m not completely sure what has Rushkoff so bothered.

I’m a “friend” (and “fan!”) of Starbucks and Doc’s Marina Grill on Facebook. Both are very much “businesses” that are trying and succeeding at using Social Media to improve their marketing efforts. There are thousands and thousands like them.

I’m a “fan” of a lot of great organizations (like Invisible People or Love146) who use Social Media to let me know about their campaigns or victories or even their needs. Some, shockingly, even use Facebook to connect with me to try to get me to make a gift. There are thousands and thousands like them.

But I never confuse these guys with someone who I have a relationship with.

Try this comparison on for size. Telemarketing began some time in the 1950’s. Marketers knew a good thing when they saw it, even way back then. They turned the telemarketing crank so hard that Congress had to step in to limit the use. That’s bad. But that didn’t invalidate the telephone as a relationship tool. It might have been a hassle before Caller ID came along, but after that it was easy to separate Aunt Ruby from the magazine salesperson. Phones are still great relationship tools. The bad use of the technology did not invalidate the technology. In fact, phoning and telemarketing are still very effective marketing tools IF used wisely, strategically and as part of a relationship-based strategy.

Don’t let fear or idealism get in the way of using good tools. If you have a relationship with your donors, you can use Facebook and (heaven forbid) even telephoning to connect with them. If you really have a relationship, it’ll work. If you don’t, it won’t. Just like every other kind of relationship, the technology isn’t the issue.

What do you think? Are the big corporate business types ruining social media for the rest of us? I’d love to know what you think about the crowded Social Media space. I always enjoy knowing what you’re thinking.

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: jakerome)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

4 thoughts on “marketers ruin everything”

  1. I’m with you. I’m in my early forays into facebook, but it’s easy to see its value as a relationship tool – one hard for “big business” to ruin. Your telephone analogy is spot-on.

    This is a little off the subject, but I think it’ll be interesting to see how P&G uses social media to their advantage. Starbucks and most restaurants create a friendly relationship atmosphere that would be easier to establish onto the social media scene. It’s hard to imagine warm, relationship feelings from a detergent/toothpaste company. P&G would have to work harder than most.

    Fun blog.

  2. Thanks Tim. Good thinking about P&G, I think they’ll do what they can do which is more down the coupon and savings highway and try to build relationships on that. It will be interesting to see, but no one who is building real relationships online has anything to fear from the P&Gs, except there will be for a time more chatter and clutter.
    Great to hear from you.

  3. Relationship wins. This post shows that in spades, Steve. Nice job.
    None of us like to be pitched without an underlying relationship. What we ought to be building is rapport, relentlessly shining the spot-light on the other person. If we choose to break the relationship to try and sell something (as Godin so clearly shows in his latest TED video) we’re idiots.
    If, however, a Starbucks or Doc’s is “just getting a message out there” then that’s cool, technology notwithstanding.
    In a noisy world, attention is the scarcity and attention is a function of relationship not technology. Tech is a tool (as you say) and how that tool is used can either enhance (or enrich) the relationship or kill it. Good reminder from Oneicity. Thanks.

  4. @Jeff–thanks for your kind words,every now and then I’m on target. I appreciate your focus on “shining the spot-light” on others. You do a great job of that and demonstrate how it works.
    Grateful to have you on board.

    I haven’t seen Seth’s TED talk, care to share the link here?

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